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Thursday
Jan272011

Thankful Thursday

A couple of days ago I noticed a charge on my online credit card statement that I couldn’t remember making. I do  online shopping at the Apple Store, and sometimes I can be forgetful, so I checked my Apple account to see what I’d ordered recently. There was nothing there. I called the credit card company to dispute the charge, only to find that their had been recent authorizations for other fraudulent  online orders, including one at Amazon.ca for $700. These latest purchases just hadn’t shown up yet on my statement. Coincidentally, or maybe not, at the same time the same credit card company red-flagged my son’s business card because of online purchases made for airline tickets in Europe, among other things. So we both had to cut up our cards and have new ones issued. Its been an annoyance and a little unsettling, but really, not much more than that, and for that I am thankful. I am thankful that it was all so easy to take care of.

I’m thankful for online credit card statements which help me keep track of things, and for online shopping in general. I’d hate to go back to the days when I had to buy everything at stores here in town. There were always a lot of things that just weren’t available, and would have to be bought on trips to other cities or not bought at all. Over the winter, we’d save up lists of things we needed to buy when we were outside (That’s Yukon-speak for down south.) in the summer, and then we’d spend half our holiday time shopping. But no more, and woohoo for that.

Just this week, the belt broke in the power nozzle of my vacuum, so I ordered a new one online for $9.00. Ten years ago, that fix would have been a lot more difficult and maybe impossible. Online shopping is a good gift, both for me and for my son, who is constantly ordering things for his business that he would not be able to get otherwise.

I’m thankful for our continued warmer weather, which also make life easier and better. I’m thankful that the big job cleaning and rearranging the kitchen cupboard is done. I’m thankful for a few good books in my reading line-up and beef barley soup in the crock-pot.

In case you think I have only small things to be thankful for, let me say that I’ve got at least two big items of praise that I’d be unwise to post publicly.

I’m thankful that our God is a God who works in both small things and big things, so that we can thank him for everything because it all comes from his hand.

 Throughout this year I’m planning to post a few thoughts of thanksgiving each Thursday along with Kim at the Upward Call and others.

Wednesday
Jan262011

Open Question

I spent a bit of time responding to a comment on this week’s Theological Term, which was, in case you’ve forgotten, open theism.

From the comment from Kane:

Have you read Gregory Boyd, or John Sanders? Perhaps Clark Pinnock?

I’m thinking more specifically about the books God At War, Satan and the Problem of Evil, The God Who Risks, or Most Moved Mover. They’re all very impacting reads and make exceptional cases for providential openness.

I haven’t read all of those books, but I have read one of them, so I gave a quick summary of the reasons that I reject the arguments in it.

I’ve read John Sanders quite thoroughly. (Once upon a time we went to the same church.) I’d have to say that I didn’t consider his arguments compelling and here’s a quick summary of my reasons why:

  • First, I don’t share the philosophical assumptions that gave rise to the whole openness system. It’s hard to buy the system if you don’t buy the presuppositions.
  • I’d also argue that the notion that classical view of God borrows from Greek philosophy is bogus. That criticism actually better fits the openess view.
  • What’s more, I found the exegetical arguments unconvincing. I accept that most of the proof texts used to support the open view are anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms. After all, God is not like us, so we would expect that when he communicates truths about himself to us by means of human language, it will always be by way of analogy, because there are only inadequate human categories to use.
  • And last, even though open theists claim to be vindicating God, I find open theology to be useless as a theodicy.

If you want me to explain more about any of the points, let me know.

Wednesday
Jan262011

Round the Sphere Again: An All Fun Edition

Dear Dad
A young boy asks for more allowance (Letters of Note): “I put in my plea for a raise of thirty cents for me to buy scout things and pay my own way more around.”

Guess who?

Birthday Books
Find out the New York Times best sellers for the week of your birth. I’ve read none of the books on my list, but I’ve heard of a couple of the non-fiction ones:

  • The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
  • Abraham Lincoln by Carl Sandburg

Have you heard of any of the books on you list? Read any of them?

Wednesday
Jan262011

Called According to Paul: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

This is another repost of an old post in the Called According to Paul series. I’m reposting them all, one per week, so I can link to them in the sidebar under Favorite Posts. An explanation of this series can be found here, and the already reposted pieces are here.

Not Herman Ridderbos.Here is 2 Thessalonians 2:13 and 14.

But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. He called you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NET)

What can we learn about the way Paul uses the word call from this passage? Let’s start with verse 14—that’s where the word call is found—and work backwards from there.

  • The call in this passage is to salvation, and it comes through the preaching of the gospel. In some of the earlier passages we looked at, we learned that the call to salvation is a call with divine power behind it, which implies that it is the work of the Spirit. In this passage, while it’s clear that that salvation comes through the Spirit’s work (see verse 13), Paul says that the salvation call also comes through “our gospel.” The powerful call of the Spirit to salvation works in conjunction with (or through) the preaching of the good news.

  • The purpose of this call is “so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, God has called particular Thessalonians to salvation so that the character and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ would be displayed in them. We saw in the last two passages (2 Timothy 1:9; Romans 1:1-7. ) that the call to salvation is a call to holiness, and this is at least a similar thought, if not the same one.

  • Once again, the call is connected to God’s choice: God “chose you…for salvation” and then “called you to this salvation.” God’s choice precedes God’s call, with the call of God working out in time what the choice of God established “from the beginning.”1 We’ve seen this thought previously, for in 2 Timothy 1:9, the call to salvation is grounded in a choice made “before the ages began.”  

  • And, as in Romans 1:1-7, the call is linked to God’s love, coming to “brethren loved by the Lord.”

Are you feeling like these are starting to be repetitive? That’s not a bad thing, because it shows that we’re getting down to the center of the way Paul tended to use the word call. We’ve seen the particular nuances he gave to it and the things he associated it with it over and over again. That should give us confidence in our understanding of the usual meaning Paul gives to the word call when he writes about the call of God.

What do you see that I missed? What can you see in this passage about the meaning of the word called when it is used by Paul in regards to the call of God?

1Yes, I know there’s a textual variant here. The verse either reads “as a first fruit” or “from the beginning”. For more explanation,  the NET translational notes on this verse.

Tuesday
Jan252011

Theological Term of the Week

open theism
A movement emerging from within evangelicalism that denies the historic Christian view of God’s omniscience, teaching instead that God does not know the future exhaustively, since he cannot know for certain the choices and actions of free creatures until the choices are made and the actions are done in time; the future, then, is not certain, but “open,” for both God and his creatures; also called free will theism, open theology, or openness of God theology.

  • Scripture that disproves open theism:

    16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
    in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

    17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
    18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you. (Psalm 139:16-18 ESV)

    In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…. (Ephesians 1:11 ESV)
  • Belgic Confession, Article 13: 

    We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.

    Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.

    We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.

    This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father.

    In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

  • From Their God Is Too Small by Bruce Ware:

    [T]he very greatness, goodness, and glory of God are undermined by the open view of God. While the open view tries to understand God as more “relational” and “really involved” in human affairs, the way it does so is by portraying God as less than he truly is. Of the open view we cannot help but say, “Their God is too small!”

    Think about it. Here we have a God who has to wait, in so many, many cases, to see what we will do before he can decide his own course of action. While this is a very natural way to think of human choice and action, does this rightly apply to the God of the Bible? The true and living God of the Bible proclaims, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isa. 46:9b-10). Surely such a majestic God stands high and exalted and far above the proposed God of the open view. The Bible’s abundant prophecies, most of which involve innumerable future free human choices and actions, should be enough by themselves to indicate that the true God does not have to wait to see what we do before he makes up his mind. If God doesn’t know what we will do before we do it, how could Christ, for example, warn Peter that before the rooster crowed, Peter would deny him three times (John 13:38)? Was this a good guess on Jesus’ part? Hardly! Recall that just a few verses earlier in John 13 Jesus had told the disciples that he would begin telling them things before they take place so that when they occur, “you may believe that I am he” (John 13:19). God knows in advance what we will do, and he can, when he wishes, declare it to us as evidence of his very deity. The open view brings God down, pure and simple. It tries to give more significance to human choice and action at the expense of the very greatness and glory of God. The God of open theism is too small, simply because he is less than the majestic, fully knowing, altogether wise God of the Bible.

Learn more:

  1. GotQuestions.org: What Is Open Theism? (A good simple explanation, especially the first 3 paragraphs. I have quibbles with the last paragraph.)
  2. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: What are the basic tenets of open theism?
  3. Gary Gilley: Open Theism, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
  4. Martyn McGeown: Closing the Door on Open Theism
  5. Ligon Duncan: The Openness of God Controversy
  6. John Frame: Open Theism and Divine Foreknowledge 
  7. John Piper: Answering Greg Boyd’s Openness of God Texts
  8. Al Mohler: Problems with Open Theism (mp3)
  9. James White and John Sanders: Open Theism Debate (You Tube video)

Related terms:

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.